The past few months have been undoubtedly different and strange. On 1st July, the Sabbatical Officer team you voted for back in February took office following a two week digital handover with the outgoing 2019 - 2020 Sabbatical Officer team.
Your VP Education for 2020 - 2021, Emi Dowse, talks us through her experience of the past couple of months; from moving back to her family home and the challenging reality of finishing her Uni degree in lockdown (including the practical and emotional implications) to learning and starting a new role via Zoom.
When I ran for VP Education, I never expected that I would be starting my handover back in my parents home, where I had been sharing a room with my sister. Like so many other students, I went home at the end of March, just before the lockdown was announced. As a final year, this meant that I didn't get to say that last goodbye to most of my friends and I didn't know when I would next see them.
Completing Uni in lockdown was a struggle, and I'll be honest I haven't even finished yet. I had to delay one of my module submissions due to illness, and the disruption caused by Corona. For me, there was no place I could find peace and quiet, and I found it challenging to get into a routine while living with my family again. On top of all this, there was the ever-present fear surrounding being more vulnerable to COVID due to underlying health issues and being in the process of tests for an autoimmune condition. I know I am not alone in this experience, and many other students have felt the same.
When it felt like the world stood still, we were expected to plough on. While the safety net came as a relief, it didn't take away from the fears or concerns we had during those times. As a final year, I also had to deal with the grief of not having those cheesy, cliche moments that I had been looking forward to for the past four years. I did not get that dissertation photo, or the final trip to spoons after our exams, or graduation on the Hoe... well we weren't getting that anyway.
I feel it is also important for me to acknowledge that I am fortunate to have a job right now; I know many of my peers are going to struggle to find work. For most students, the thought of graduating and finding a job is daunting enough, let alone the added stress of pandemic and an economic crisis on top of it!
Doing handover online has also been tough. For starters, everything being via Zoom meant that the training was only as good as the WIFi, and anyone who has Virgin Media will know how bad that can be! There was also the issue of finding a quiet and comfortable place to work. I was living with my parents and my four siblings, so getting alone-time was tricky; in the end I managed to secure a room and my mum even put a sign on the door (see image). But I think the thing I found hardest was missing out on the team bonding that is so important during the handover period. Unfortunately, it is the little moments that we were losing like those chats between meetings or having the opportunity to go for lunch; instead, everything was forced and intentional because we had to schedule it in.
Now I must admit it wasn't all bad. I was lucky enough to have the cutest of colleagues in my makeshift office, even if they were known to sleep on the job (see image above)! The student voice teams also did their best to schedule in catch-ups throughout the week so the team could have some time to chat. We also managed to book in some time to "socialise" outside of our meetings and training which helped and are now looking into ways we can have a socially distanced meet up in the park.
The outgoing officers were great at getting us up to speed with everything. They made sure to include us in all the changes made due to the coronavirus and helped to ensure we were involved in any future decisions. I honestly can't thank Millie enough for the handover she gave me, it was very detailed and informative and had everything I could possibly need to know. There were even some benefits to attending online as well. One of them being that if we were in a meeting and there was something I didn't understand I could quickly send Millie a message, and she was able to fill me in immediately. This was so useful, especially because some of the meetings were fast-paced and technical. It's was clear to tell how much passion Millie still had for the role; and she made sure that her last big task was laying down the groundwork so I could hit the ground running.
So now I am approaching the end of my first official day as VP Education. These past two weeks have flown by, and although they were a little overwhelming, to begin with, I am so excited to start and hopefully, alongside my team, make a difference in this role.
Written July 1st 2020